Parenting and Expectations

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Kids. Guilt. Expectations. They go together like three peas in a pod. I probably read every article I come across about parenting. Some serve to judge. Some serve not to judge. Some ask people not to judge while they are then judging other people. Judgment is just human nature. Taking all the information in, processing it, and then finding what works for me as a parent is what I normally attempt to do. It isn’t a fine science.

A few years ago, I found I felt angry a lot. I took it out on my husband and my kids. I yelled and I snapped. I snipped at people. And it only made me feel worse. It took me a while, but I found a way to control that anger, especially when I realized it made my kids act like me. They took on all my anxiety and anger, and they began to express it. They expressed it in their play and in the way they interacted with other people. And that was not something I wanted, because I knew it was one of my major flaws. It prohibited me from appropriately relating to other people. It caused a cease of communication, when all I really wanted was to communicate.

I still have a temper. Sometimes I get so mad I could hit something. Instead, I write. Or do yoga. Or I go for a walk. Or I take a hot bath. I try to push a pause button until I feel better.

I thought taking the anger away was enough. I wanted my children to avoid feeling like they had to please me and their father above themselves. You see, for a long time I felt that way. My parents had HUGE expectations of me, and everything I had striven for in my early adulthood I did for them instead of for myself. I couldn’t figure out why it was so important for me to make them happy. And that feeling made me unhappy. Trying to please others above yourself always makes one feel unhappy, because you never know if you’re succeeding at it and because you’ve placed your happiness in the hands of another person who you have no control over. I felt like I had to be a superhero to avoid my dad’s criticism or to mold myself into their idea of success. And I don’t want that for my children. I love my parents, and I don’t blame them at all. They’re good parents, and they’re there for me, and everyone should be as lucky as I am to have been born of such wonderful, loving people. I know my parents are proud of me. I know it’s my own life to live, and I know that they didn’t mean to heap their expectations on to me. Parents should expect a lot from their children, but children should also expect more from themselves. They should be taught that success is driven by achieving their expectations of themselves, not by reacting to others expectations of them.

I read this great article yesterday (from April 2014) titled What to Say Instead of Praising. Praising brings conditionality into a relationship. In fact, saying “Good job,” implies that you expect them to be good. Instead of “Good job,” say “You did it!” and match your child’s excitement. This is one of the hints from the article. This also allows your child to realize the value of what they did, without feeling like they have to do a good job to please you. Instead, they learn that working hard reaps benefits for themselves. It in fact, leads them to succeed without having the burden of having to please their parents.

I think I say, “Good job,” more than any other phrase to my kids. And this morning, I changed that. I sent Hailey to the car while I went to the bathroom. I said, “Hey, if you try to buckle up while I’m in the bathroom it’ll be a big help to me.” She beamed at me.

When I came back from the bathroom, she was in the car completely buckled with a huge grin on her face, “Look Mom!” And I had to bite my tongue. My first instinct was to say, “Good job!” but I didn’t. Instead I said, “Look. You did it!” and I grinned back at her and gave her a love pat.

Like consciously stopping my anger, this is something I’ll have to work on as well. But I think like the article stated it will increase my children’s self-esteem. It will show them they have the power within to succeed in the ways they want to succeed. Instead of trying to understand and live up to my expectations as adults, they’ll live up to their own expectations and create happiness from within. At least this is what I hope for them.

Follow Lauren Greene:

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PS: The Devil Within is only available for the next three weeks. Don’t forget to get your copy while you still can at Amazon.

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